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Severino Scassa climbing at Andonno
Photo by archivio Severino Scassa
The new stainless steel bolts and chains used by Severino Scassa at Andonno
Photo by archivio Severino Scassa
The old gear replaced by Severino Scassa at Andonno
Photo by archivio Severino Scassa
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Andonno restyling by Severino Scassa

10.04.2013 by Severino Scassa

At the historic Italian crag Andonno Severino Scassa Seve has rebolted more than 20 climbs including the famous Noia, the first 8c+ in Italy established 20 years ago. Replacing the bolts and chains was a tough, meticulous task as Scassa explains.

Many of the routes I first ascended at Andonno have now turned 17, 18 years and some are heading into their twenties: the right age to be rebolted. It was a project I’d been thinking about for a while, but it was going to be a pretty big undertaking. I'd need gear, time, desire: I'd buy the gear, find the time and just wait for the desire to come. And the right vibes came along at the end of October, that moment suspended between autumn and winter when some still doggedly try to squeeze into their cold-stiff climbing shoes while others have already pulled out their skis and boots. And so there I was, hanging up there on a rope. Often alone, self-belayed, rebolting two routes a day. Alone or with friends, the restyling replenished a large number of routes that always respected the original bolting. Where the rock allowed it I used stainless steel bolts, otherwise I used glue-in bolts. Both kindly provided by Raumer... in exchange for pretty big cheque! Similarly, the belay chains were kindly provided, against payment, by Fixe.

The chains are equipped with chain and ring. I could have used those with a carabiner but I opted for the ring as these last longer, they are worn more slowly and the wear is more regular, meaning that at the end of the day they are longer and safer. Yeah, you'll have to do a lower-off rope manoeuvre, but this is far better than lowering off from a carabiner which shows the signs of aging and wear and tear.

While rebolting the routes I removed all the in-situ gear which resulted in a large amount of old carabiners, some of which were clipped to rusty hardware-store maillon rapides (8mm and even 6mm with a breaking strain of only a few dozen kilos). Others were clipped to damaged quickdraws, some had carabiners worn to the core. Personally I think it's rather selfish to leave your quickdraws hanging on a route for centuries: this forces those who wants to try the same route to clip other people's gear (you never know how long it's been in-situ and whether it's become a part of the crag). It's one thing working a route intensely for a short period: leaving your quickdraws in is OK in this case (but maillon rapides should always be avoided as these damage the hangers after repeated falls, apart from the fact that iron and steel should never be in contact with each other). But if you decorate a route as if it were a Christmas tree, try it for two days and then leave it decorated and forgotten about mid-August two years later, then things change: in this case it's best to remove the quickdraws (which would otherwise become ruined) and clip them back in on your next bout of attempts. After a full summer or winter in-situ, who in their right mind would summon up the courage to fall onto that gear anyway? As it happens, most of the gear left on the routes ends up being the old stuff, those which "if they stay up there who cares"... which means you warm up on easy routes with brand new Spirit carabiners only to then try extreme moves, relying on age-old, unreliable gear left on the route who knows when, thinking "Dunno, hope it'll hold!"
 
In any case, all the gear material was carefully collected and sorted, so anyone who wants to reclaim their pre-war equipment (perhaps they're fond of it) can do so: I'll give it all back immediately!

Between one stainless steel bolt and the next glue-in, I also checked the hand and footholds. When these happen to break I always try to restore them as much as possible to their original state (gluing the piece which broke off where possible or, in other cases, making a copy of the original hold).: if a hold comes off or a foothold breaks beneath the sole of your climbing shoe don't hesitate to contact me! I'll immediately launch a restoration operation!

How come? Why am I doing all this, financing and managing it myself. Hmmm.  Partly because my conscience tells me to do so: now I can say that the rebolted routes are safe. I would never have forgiven myself had an accident been caused due to old deteriorated gear. And partly due to pride: I've personally wanted to take care of certain routes with which I have a special bond (first and foremost Noia). And then at the end of the day, when you scrape away all the rest, there's that passion: a new router who loves what he does is just like a postman - he always bolts twice.

A list of all the routes which have been rebolted with the precise specifications of equipment used can be found online at www.sevescassa.it
For the record: 112 glue-in bolts, 25 chains and 50 stainless steel bolts, 53 pieces of pro complete with bolt and hanger. Which totals 215 holes!

Severino Scassa

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